<firstimage=”//static.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/virtualpetsites.jpg” />To anyone who has witnessed the Neopets phenomenon, which launched in 1999 and resulted in a line of toys and cards, distributed by Viacom to several real stores across the country; it is no surprise to hear that kids have an insatiable appetite for virtual pets.
It doesn’t seem to matter that the cute little creatures only exist in “pixieland”, they still want to feed them, buy them, clothes and play with them. So why not make the little ones happy by introducing them to other virtual pet sites like Neopets? It might be all you need to get a few moments of peace and quiet during the summer vacation.
Marapets has been designed to work with several age groups. Its target audience goes from the very young to the preteen groups. If your kid has played Neopets, a lot about Marapets will seem very familiar.
The selection of pets isn’t quite as attractive as Neopets’ but there is still enough variety to keep most kids happy. Though the site is free, like several other sites nowadays, it has upgrade options, all of which require real money. Some of the most desired ones involve upgrading your pets to special edition pets, special items and costumes.
One major difference between Marapets and Neopets, is that they cater to a pop-culture-savvy audience, with dress up games that give you options to dress your doll like pop culture icons such as Lady Gaga, Usher, Pink and Zac Efron.
Subeta targets an older audience, since you must be at least 13 years old to create a character. Though many of the pet features are very similar to Neopets, there is certainly an edgier style to the site, which feels less like a site for little kids and more like a site for pre-teens. To appeal to that age group, they made a few choices to differentiate themselves from the sites for younger kids. Some of those choices had mixed results.
For example, they named the groups of similar interests “Cults” and created journals that users can update with their thoughts, but that never seem to be updated with more than a few words. The design of the features is certainly well done, and the imagery of a lot of the features is interesting and original, even if the actual features on the virtual pet site are still so much like Neopets. Subeta is a good option for those who still want to play with virtual pets, but who want to feel like they are on a site with people from their same age group.
Build-A-Bear-Ville is certainly built with a younger audience in mind, starting from its character creation which has a character guiding you all along the way. One of the first steps on the creation asks you for “your parents email address” so they can let them know you are a member of Build-A-Bear-Ville.
It is refreshing that they have golden rules you must accept stating that you must be kind and never give out personal information. The site itself is not quite as interactive as Neopets, and with long loading times between activities. Some of the games are also more repetitive than you would find in other sites, but it seems appropriate and welcoming to a very young audience. Note that some of the features are only available for those who have purchased a bear at Build-A-Bear-Ville stores.
Powerpets is one of the most obviously Neopets-inspired sites with a lot about it looking like a direct copy of Neopets. The good news is that if you like Neopets, you are bound to like Powerpets too. They have added a few features that make this site an interesting alternative to Neopets though, one being the ability to add pictures of your real pets to the “Pet Zone” part of the site. Some of the stock market and bank loan aspects of the site can potentially teach kids some real money skills.
So pick one of the sites above and explore them with your kids. It’s a great way to spend some time together, even when on the computer, and to introduce them to sites they can share with their friends. Know of other virtual pet sites like Neopets? What sites are your kids into? Tell us about them.